Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Lear, Edward

(1812-1888) UK artist and poet, the first significant purveyor of the limerick and a composer of some of the finest Nonsense verse ever written in English. Although his poetry makes no "literal" or mundane sense, many of his narrative poems have an internal consistency – and indeed pathetic intensity – that gives his work close affinity to later fantasy. EL's poems appeared initially in The Book of Nonsense (coll 1846; exp 1861; exp 1863; exp 1870). Later volumes included: Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets (coll 1871), which includes "The Owl and the Pussycat" and "The Jumblies", both of which are sustained fantasy narratives in verse; More Nonsense Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, Etc. (coll 1872); Laughable Lyrics: A Fourth Book of Nonsense, Poems, Song, Botany, Music, Etc (coll 1876), which contains, in "The Dong with the Luminous Nose", a verse tale whose pathos – the Dong being clearly EL himself – quite overshadows the "absurdity" of the events depicted; and Nonsense Songs and Stories (coll 1894). Queery Leary Nonsense (coll 1911) assembles old material, with some additions; a convenient later assembly of his work is The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear (coll 1947) ed Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948).

The Victorians treated EL as an author for children, a dismissive bias which extended well into the 20th century. Today we are fortunate to inhabit a climate of opinion that recognizes his genius. [JC]

Edward Lear


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.